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Cristina Kirchner hand-picked a successor to protect her against post-presidency lawsuits

Reuters/Martin Acosta
Daniel Scioli (left) is Kirchner’s favorite to succeed her—but he can’t probably can’t protect her from a slew of lawsuits waiting in the wings.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

In yesterday’s presidential primaries Daniel Scioli unsurprisingly won the Peronist Frente Para La Victoria (FPV) party primary, backed by Cristina Kirchner, with 38% of the total vote. The Cambiemos coalition, dominated by the Propuesta Republicana (PRO) party, nominated current Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri (30%). And Sergio Massa became the candidate for the Una Nación Avanzada (UNA) coalition, comprised of dissident Peronists (21%). On Sep. 20, the three will begin their official campaigns for the Oct. 25 presidential election (with a potential runoff on Nov. 22). The results reflect a long holding Argentine maxim: When united the Peronists are impossible to beat.

This reality is the main reason why Scioli, who has never had an easy relationship with Kirchner, acquiesced to her close ally Carlos Zannini as his running mate. In return, she forced challenger Florencio Randazzo to bow out of the primary race.

Through this electoral alliance, Kirchner hopes to maintain her influence and power. Yet history shows how difficult this will be—her predecessors all failed. Upon entering the Casa Rosada, Scioli will inherit a vast patronage network of millions of jobs and benefits built up during the Kirchner years and benefit himself from strong public support for these programs.

And once out of office Kirchner’s political immunity ends. Numerous potential lawsuits await. In the US state of Nevada, a judge has ordered a deeper investigation into Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm accused of helping Kirchner’s friend, Lázaro Báez, embezzle and launder Argentine public funds. In Buenos Aires, Hotesur, a hotel management firm owned by Kirchner and her family, is under investigation for billing irregularities (also involving Báez). Zannini won’t be able to do much to help her as the vice presidency in Argentina, while symbolically important, is not institutionally powerful.

Scioli may find it useful to keep Kirchner close for a time, calling on her to rally diehard loyalists for changes he wants to make. But he will have the power to dismiss her when her usefulness ends, leaving her to join Carlos Menem and Eduardo Duhalde as former Peronist presidents turned political outcasts. An unemotional politician, whatever Scioli decides will be very strategic.

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